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My top 5 Iowa NCAA moments:
Gutsy performance and what “The Grinder” was certainly capable of doing in his All-American career. Meyer had a chance to win but Preisch nearly jumped out of the Scottrade Center, fleeing the mat to avoid late takedown. Meyer remained unfazed and got winning takedown anyway. Unfortunately, he didn’t rebound from tough a quarterfinal loss.
Cash Wilcke wasn’t even an at-large berth when the brackets were set. He got in due to injury to West Virginia’s Jake Smith. Wilcke knocked off two seeded wrestlers with his chance. Who can forget the OT win over Penn’s No. 12 Frank Mattiace? Seriously, an escape in two seconds off a restart in overtime with elimination looming. The unreal became more unreal when he won on a penalty point for a third caution in the second sudden victory period. Missed the podium by just one victory.
Iowa fans were treated to a couple pins from Thomas Gilman and Sam Brooks. The “boxing match” between Gilman and Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni ended when Gilman squashed a roll attempt and stuck him, a la his 2016 semi against Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello. Brooks’ was even more wild. He faced Illinois’ upset-minded Emery Parker. In the final period, Brooks looked in peril, trying for a turn, losing control, getting body-locked and being lifted off the mat. Only the “Mad Mullet Man” could turn that into his own throw, using momentum and a foot elevator to roll Parker over to his back. It was ”Good night” to secure Brooks’ second All-American finish.
There was no hangover from Friday night’s disappointment. Iowa went an impressive 8-1 on the final day, including 7-1 in consolation matches. Gilman suffered a heartbreaking semifinal loss. He came back to dominate his final two matches for third. He beat Virginia Tech’s No. 2 Joey Dance (5-2) to reach the top four. Then, he dominated Piccininni (13-6) for the second time. The crowd reacted and he responded with a subtle “thumbs up” gesture back to them with his hands raised and then embraced coaches as he came off the mat in a black-and-gold singlet for the last time.
From the opener against Stanford’s Connor Schram to the quarterfinal with Michigan’s Stevan Micic to beating Tomasello to his finals win over former teammate Seth Gross, Clark had one of the toughest, and most dramatic, tournaments. He conquered it with one arm, having torn ligaments in his left wrist and had a left shoulder that had been popped out of socket multiple times this season. He was clutch when it counted coming from behind in his final two matches, scoring decisive takedowns in the third to win. People don’t realize how tough that third-period ride was against Gross. He willed it. Four-time All-American, three-time national finalist, an NCAA champ and one tough son of a gun. The toss he gave Terry Brands (regardless of whose idea it was) became epic. Memorable feat.
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